This place was one hell of a find! This restaurant is dedicated to the cuisine made famous in PuLi Town, NanTou county, in the centre of Taiwan. PuLi is known for its amazing vegetables and also their sugar cane. PuLi has a large buddhist community, so there is a huge abundance of vegetarian restaurants for you to try, should you wish to make the trip. First, I’d recommend you get a taste for it by visiting this place in TianMu.
The Menu is vast, it’s all in Chinese, and there are no pictures. However, I would encourage you to order a variety of the things with the little thumbs up sign! If you want rice, look for 飯 if you want noodles, look for 麵. If you see this character 炒 this means fried (thumbs up!). First off, this place gets an immediate smile from me when the complimentary tea they bring us contains actual loose tea leaves inside the teapot – not just the teabags in most places who provide tea. The tea was Oolong (being a tea lover, I can tell you this for sure) and it was delicious. It was a great way to start the meal.
Following the arrival of the tea, we ordered a selection of dishes. We ordered the Pork Knuckle (upon recommendation), fish belly, rice noodles and fresh fried Taiwanese Greens.
Now, I know that this dish can be a little unnerving for the less adventurous foodies out there, however, hang on before dismissing it. This is pork knuckle (su1gu3zhu1jiao3 酥骨豬腳), however, this is not just your ordinary pork knuckle. This is a cut from the lower leg, and this particular pork knuckle is cooked for an incredibly long time at a low temperature. You can tell this by the way the meat just drops off the bone. You can also confirm this by the fact you can actually eat the bone (it’s true! But I wouldn’t recommend you eat the bone, however, I would recommend you to eat the marrow from the inside of the bone). The pork meat was amazing, you could see tiny layers of a meat, fat, meat, fat, meat, fat sandwich within the meat itself. It melted in your mouth and the flavour was outstanding. The skin on the outside of the knuckle was equally tasty, and imparted the flavour of the cooking broth into the meat enough to give it some of the flavour, but without making the flavour too strong. This is the best pork knuckle I’ve had and this, alone, is enough to make me want to keep going back to this restaurant.
The fish belly (yin4gua1shi1mu4yu2du4 蔭瓜虱目魚肚) was just as impressive as the pork knuckle. You can see the nice clear broth in the plate and the chilli pickle combo sat atop the fish. This fish was steamed to perfection, allowing each mouthful to flake apart but still remain meaty enough for you to bite. The flavour of the fish itself was a fresh, almost milky, slightly earthy yet still yielded a clean taste. It was fantastic.
This is the house special fried rice noodles (pu3li3chao3mi3fen3 埔里炒米粉). If you haven’t eaten rice noodles yet, then you should. If you’ve eaten them already, then you know why I ordered them. Rice noodles are a great alternative to a bowl of white rice, and when they are fried (chao3 炒) they are even better. These rice noodles were fried together with thick slices of (what I think were re-hydrated) mushrooms, carrots, green onions, garlic and some simple soy sauce. Much like the premise behind Italian cookery – sometimes the less ingredients, the better. All of the ingredients were good quality, and they made these rice noodles really shine. The dish had a nice salty note of soy sauce undercutting the garlic and onion.
Being as we were in a PuLi restaurant, and being as though PuLi is famed for its vegetables, we had to order the stir-fried house vegetables (kong1xin1cai4 空心菜). If you haven’t found it already, you soon will: Taiwanese love garlic! If you ever order stir fried vegetables at a restaurant, you will find out that they are often cooked with around 3-4 garlic cloves in each pan. It may seem excessive, but the taste is not overpowering and, oftentimes, the garlic is nice and sweet. In this case, the vegetables they gave us were a Taiwanese staple. I don’t actually know the exact name but you will come across them again and again. However, usually when they are fried they continue to exude lots and lots of moisture even when on the plate – these ones didn’t. They tasted very fresh, with a rich iron taste (not too dissimilar to spinach) and a good crunch.
The inside of the restaurant is rather nondescript. There are some photos of the PuLi countryside, big writings of Chinese characters and very little else. But that’s OK. Not everywhere needs to be visually exciting, and this is one of those places that doesn’t need to be. The food does the talking, and that’s enough for me. Other recommendations I have been given are: fried tofu (su1zha2dou4fu3 酥炸豆腐), roast salted pork (kao3xian2zhu1rou4 烤鹹豬肉), meatball soup (yan4wan2tang1 燕丸湯).
I can’t recommend this place enough. It is totally worth heading up to TianMu to check it out, maybe on the way to BeiTou hot springs or YangMingShan to see the amazing scenery. Either way, you won’t be disappointed!
No.65, lane 8, TianMu East Road, ShiLin District, Taipei City.